Several Ohio activists joined by national experts on initiative and referendum blasted a recommendation being considered on June 8 by the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission to create a double standard for the passage of constitutional amendments whereby amendments proposed by citizen petition would require a super-majority vote of 55 percent, while amendments proposed by the legislature would require a 50 percent plus one vote.
“Reasonable people can disagree on what the threshold should be for passage of an amendment, but a position cannot be sustained that different thresholds should apply based on who brings an amendment to the ballot,” argued Ron Alban, an activist from Kettering, Ohio. Alban’s testimony pointed out 8 double standards where citizens are disadvantaged and urged the commission not “to burden the initiative process with double standards.”
“There is no historical precedent for amendments proposed by the people needing to obtain a higher percentage of the vote to pass than those proposed by the legislature,” offered M. Dane Waters, founder and chairman of the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California. “The requirement being proposed by the Constitutional Revision and Review Committee would make Ohio a lonely outlier both in this country and around the world.”
Jack Boyle, from Solon, Ohio, called the proposed double standard regarding the vote threshold an “unacceptable slap at citizens,” and asked the commission to reject the idea.
In written testimony, Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union expressed “great concern” that “the Commission was considering a recommendation that would effectively create second-class ballot measure rights for the people of Ohio.”
“We oppose creating a super-majority requirement for voters to amend the constitution and any attempts to weaken the rights of Ohio’s citizens to make laws in our state,” Corey Roscoe, Ohio state director for the Humane Society of the U.S. testified.
“Requiring a higher super-majority vote of 55 percent when citizens petition to propose a constitutional change is bad policy and an unreasonable double standard that will hold citizens subservient to their supposed ‘servants’ in the legislature,” said Paul Jacob president of Citizens in Charge, a national pro-initiative group.
Citizens in Charge is a 501 (c) (4) citizen-powered advocacy organization working to protect the initiative and referendum process where it exists in 26 states and to expand the process to states where voters currently lack that right.
Information for this story was provided by Citizens in Charge.